How to best manage increasing cultural diversity in the workplace has been a hotly discussed topic, and new research shows that employers which are perceived to be supportive of all types of cultural values experience tangible business benefits.
Accepting the reality of workplace diversity is one thing, but ensuring genuine support and inclusion of the full range of differing employees is what is important for diversity to work, Professor Jarrod Haar from Massey University’s School of Management told the New Zealand Health & Productivity Management Conference last week. “For example, the NZX recently introduced formal gender diversity rules for listed companies… That may encourage organisations to have an increased amount of women on their boards, but will those women actually feel included and supported too?”, Haar questioned.
It is critically important for employers to understand their employees – and for employees to perceive their employers as doing so, Haar said. “My [New Zealand-based] research shows it is all about the importance of perceptions. Employees need to ‘feel the love’ from their companies. And if they feel cultural inclusion and support from their employer, employee performance and wellbeing will benefit and productivity will increase,” he added.
Interestingly, Haar commented that for employers to fully reap the benefits of perceived cultural diversity inclusion they needed to demonstrate support for the cultural values of, not just minority groups (ie. Maori or Pacific), but for the majority group (ie. New Zealand European) too. “We don’t actually need more diversity per se – because we already have it. It is actually about how we make people feel included that counts. Inclusion is an essential human need. Everyone wants to belong and to feel part of the whole – while having their unique circumstances acknowledged,” he said.
There was also a spectrum worth reporting, Haar said. “The more supportive organisations were, the more job satisfaction their employees reported. And vice versa too: the less supportive organisations were, the less engaged and satisfied their employees were…. So be a supportive employer and it will enhance the productivity, wellbeing and health of your employees.”
Key HR takeaways
Address employee cultural values, beliefs and customs. Think about the best options to support them. For example, maybe you could give time off over the Chinese New Year or Ramadan rather than over the Christmas period if requested.
Be flexible. Include everyone – including the majority group in your workplace.
You don’t actually need to offer a lot. It’s about showing consideration, tolerance and understanding more than anything else. It might be just a start, but it might be enough in itself.
The benefits of doing this are not just for those directly affected. They, in fact, spread out to everyone else in the organisation too. Perceptions don’t necessarily need to relate to personal gain.
It is all about showing support for your employees. It shows that the organisation does care about its staff. Remember inclusion is beneficial for the minority as well as the majority.